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Supreme Court judgment handed down and Brexit bill introduced

30 January 2017

The Supreme Court hands down judgment in the article 50 case, the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is introduced, and Mikaël Laurens gives evidence to the International Trade Select Committee.

Last week we published our latest report on technology in legal practice.

The Supreme Court handed down judgment in the Article 50 case, upholding the High Court's Judgment and ruling that the government did not need to consult the devolved administrations.

The government introduced the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill on Thursday and the second reading will take place this week.

Mickaël Laurens gave evidence to the International Trade Select Committee, and did an excellent job of putting forward our key points.

This week in parliament

Monday 30 January

Work and Pensions Select Committee - oral evidence session on victims of modern slavery with Damian Hinds MP, Minister for Employment, Department for Work and Pensions and Sarah Newton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, Home Office

Tuesday 31 January

House of Commons

  • European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - second reading (Day 1)
  • EU Justice Sub-Committee - oral evidence session on Brexit: civil justice cooperation with Sir Oliver Heald MP, Minister of State, Ministry of Justice
  • International Trade Select Committee - oral evidence session on UK trade options beyond 2019
  • Home Affairs Select Committee – oral evidence session on implications of the UK’s exit from the European Union with Amber Rudd MP, Home Secretary

House of Lords

  • Lords oral questions - the prevention of alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse from personally cross-examining their alleged victims in the Family Court

Wednesday 1 February

House of Commons

  • Justice Select Committee – the president, Robert Bourns, will be giving evidence on the implications of Brexit for the justice system
  • European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - second reading (Day 2)
  • Exiting the European Union – oral evidence session on the UK’s negotiating objectives for its withdrawal from the EU
  • International Trade Select Committee - oral evidence session on UK trade options beyond 2019 with International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox and Sir Martin Donnelly, Permanent Secretary for the Department for International Trade
  • Human Rights Committee – oral evidence session on Human Rights and Business with evidence from David Isaac, Chair of Equality and Human Rights Commissions and Margaret Beels, Chair of Gangmasters Licensing Authority

House of Lords

  • Lords oral questions - Home Office preparations to process applications from EU nationals resident in the UK for confirmation of a right to permanent residence or for British Citizenship

Thursday 2 February

House of Commons

  • Attorney General oral questions

House of Lords

  • Lords oral questions on the date Article 50 will be invoked

Friday 3 February

  • Nothing to report

Last week in parliament

Monday 23 January

  • Nothing to report

Tuesday 24 January

The UK Supreme Court handed down Judgment in the Article 50 Case (R (on the application of Miller & Dos Santos) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union)

The Court ruled that Parliament must vote to trigger Article 50, but that the government need not consult the devolved administrations.

House of Commons

The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the Rt Hon David Davis MP, made a statement in the House following the judgment of the Supreme Court in relation to Article 50.

David Davis briefly summarised the outcome of the Supreme Court’s judgment, noting particularly its determination that there was no onus on the government to consult with the devolved legislatures. He stated that nonetheless the government would engage with them, but welcomed the Court's judgment on this point.

Justice oral questions. The main issues covered were the implications of Brexit for the justice system, British Bill of Rights, employment tribunal fees, modernisation of the courts system reform, and prison reform.

Public Bill Committee on the Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill

The Bill passed through report stage with no amendments. Shadow Minister Chi Onwurah MP sought to introduce a number of technical probing amendments to the Bill which were either withdrawn or did not pass on a vote. During the debate she also raised wider intellectual property points including:

  • Whilst this Bill was more technical and less controversial than many debated in the House, all intellectual property legislation will be affected by the UK’s impending exist from the EU.
  • The Secretary of State should publish a paper on the impact that the government’s plans for exiting the EU will have on the Bill’s provisions (she tabled an amendment on this issue but it did not pass).
  • Exiting the EU will have a number of impacts on the application of patent law in particular, making reference to the Unified Patent Court. She said it was regrettable that our participation in the project has been thrown into question.

In response, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Jo Johnson MP (Con) said:

  • There was no question of the UK leaving the European Patent Office and the international patent convention that underpins it, as it is not connected to the EU.
  • The Bill ensures the threats regime is compatible with the proposed unitary patent and Unified Patent Court when they come into effect, and that as long as we are a member of the EU, the UK will continue to play a full and active role.
  • No decision has been taken on future involvement in the EU IP framework after we have exited the EU - that will form part of the negotiations.

International Trade Select Committee oral evidence session on UK trade options beyond 2019 - Mickaël Laurans from the Law Society gave evidence.

The key points were as follows:

  • Mickaël set out that UK law firms have reach all over the EU with firms present in 25 out of 27 EU member states. The UK also has lawyers in 24 of the 27 member states. In non-EU states, the presence of UK lawyers varies depending on how liberalised they are to legal services.
  • On the nature of international business, Mickaël noted that the key for legal services is the ability to deliver ‘fly-in, fly-out’ services or move people at short notice. He also said it was about being able to establish law firms in other countries and partner with local lawyers. Another increasingly important issue is data flow.
  • On what the legal services sector would want from the deal with the EU 27, Mickaël stated that they would want access, or equivalent, to the two main lawyers directives and the Professional Qualifications Directive. The alternative would be 27 different regimes and different levels of market access. He noted that a number of EU member states have restrictions on partnerships with local lawyers and foreign firms establishing there.
  • On whether EU 27 states would want a deal on legal services, Mickaël noted that the Law Society had met with a number of bars and law societies to discuss this issue. He noted that their willingness to do a deal varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. As an example, he said that the Paris Bar was worried about Brexit as a third of their members trained in an Anglo law firm.
  • On priority markets, Mickaël discussed South Korea as the only example of a market being liberalised by an EU-third country trade agreement. He noted that the Law Society supports ‘grandfathering’ of the EU-South Korea deal including on legal services but noted that this will be down to the good will of the South Korean Government.
  • On the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), Mickaël stated that free trade agreements are often of limited success in services, so TiSA was very important and we should continue to take part in it. It would also help with some data flow issues.
  • Mickaël finished the session by saying that transitional arrangements are important for legal certainty and solicitors will be supporting their clients in adapting to new laws.

Mickaël did an excellenct job of putting forward our key points around the future of trade in legal services both within and outside the EU. See our written submission to this committee.

House of Lords

Nothing to report

Wednesday 25 January

House of Commons

The Women and Equalities Committee publish their report, "High heels and workplace dress codes", revealing the troubling experiences of workers affected by discriminatory dress codes.

Exiting the EU oral questions. The key points were:

  • CJEU and future dispute resolution mechanism - a number of MPs questioned the Secretary of State about the UK’s need for a dispute resolution mechanism in its new trade arrangements with the EU. In response Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis MP, said that trade agreements must have a dispute resolution mechanism and most do this through arbitration.
  • Attracting global talent - following a number of questions on immigration, Exiting the EU Minister, Robin Walker MP, said that the UK will still be a magnet for international talent and will encourage the brightest and best to work and study here.
  • EU nationals - the Secretary of State reiterated that the UK had already tried to get a deal on EU nationals but the EU had not been willing to negotiate before Article 50 is triggered.
  • Brexit white paper - the Secretary of State stated that the white paper will be published as soon as possible but did not confirm whether it would be published before committee stage of the Article 50 Bill. He did state it will be before the Great Repeal Bill is published. He said that the paper would contain all the information asked for by the opposition and Exiting the EU Committee unless it would undermine the negotiations.
  • Article 50 Bill - Shadow Secretary of State, Keir Starmer MP, stated that Labour will be tabling an amendment to the Article 50 Bill asking the government to submit a report on the negotiations every 2 months to Parliament. Davis said he had been to the House regularly and this seemed ‘unambitious’.
  • EU agencies - the minister noted that the UK would be seeking the best outcome on participation in EU agencies for each sector and would discuss this further with the House.
  • EU security policy - The Secretary of State stated that the UK plays a key role in security and defence matters in the EU and will continue to do so. He said that our EU partners have reassured the UK that they see our value in these areas.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights held an oral evidence session, one of the last session as part of the Business and Human Rights Inquiry, to which we submitted late written evidence. The committee heard from Rob Billington (Director, Group Production and Sourcing, Mulberry) Mike Barry (Director, Sustainable Business, Marks and Spencer) Nick Beighton (Chief Executive, ASOS) and Chris Grayer (Manager, Global Code of Practice, Next). The main points were:

  • All of the witnesses said that their companies' commitment to human rights was driven by a number of factors: organisational belief, individual belief and consumer demand for them to respect human rights.
  • They stated a commitment to ensuring the same standards abroad as in the UK, and that where they identified issues they worked to address them with the supplier. Asked whether terminating the contract would be a more effective tool, they argued that this would result in people 'peddling their merchandise to someone else under the same false pretences' and that it was often better to work with the supplier to improve the situation in all but the worst breaches.
  • The witnesses all used SEDEX to share audits of suppliers to prevent duplication and to make smaller providers able to hold suppliers to the same high standards.
  • All witnesses encouraged all suppliers to join the Ethical Trading Initiative so that they can work with each other. Particular smaller businesses who can receive support.
  • Witnesses argued that the Modern Slavery Act is helpful, but needs a list of who should report. A £36m cut-off is fine, but need to list who falls into this category.
  • Witnesses argued that collaborative approach to resolving issues was better than a 'strict liability' approach that would drive people 'going dark'.

Tuesday 26 January

House of Commons

First reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.

Expected timetable for the bill:

Tuesday 31 January - Second reading (first day)
Wednesday, 1 February - Second reading (final day)
Monday, 6 February - Committee stage (day 1)
Tuesday, 7 February - Committee stage (day 2)
Wednesday, 8 February - Committee stage (final day); Remaining stages


Tags: Westminster weekly update | European Union | human rights | Brexit

About the author

Alexandra Cardenas is Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns at the Law Society. Public Affairs manages the relationships with parliament and government. She is a dual qualified solicitor in England and Wales (2014), and Colombia (2002). Prior to the Society, she practised as a human rights lawyer and worked at Macmillan Cancer Support and Animal Defenders International.

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